Arctic circa 1990

If Boris is still in office when you get this, the cold war is still history. Boris is gone. The cold war is tepid. It is Putin now. The cold pole is still with us and getting colder.

J. D. Kahl and a bunch of his friends tell all in Nature [1993. 361:335-337]. They got their hands on 27,000 B-52 drop-sondes taken between 1950 and 1990. Boy, I love that freedom of information stuff. Not only that but Ivan-in-uniform on ice islands in the Arctic sent up balloons twice a day to measure the usual weather stuff. For the 40 years Kahl finds 4.14 C cooling in the Autumn and 2.2 C cooling in the Winter and an annual average cooling of 1.47. Just when the polar regions should be warming rapidly we get fooled and find it is cooling rapidly. Not only that, but the cooling is in the time of the year when the warming should be greatest. To quote one honey-loving bear, "Oh, bother!" And you thought that you were not getting your dollar value out of all those B-52, perpetual-alert SAC-flights. Shame on you. Just because the arctic troposphere is cooling does not mean that surface temperatures are cooling too. They may warm or plateau.

In any case, drop-sondes take temperature and humidity at planned altitudes through the troposphere. Temperature and moisture lapse rates (dT/dz and dq/dz) are calculated.

Russia and the U.S. pooled their data archives on the Arctic troposphere. They found that the Arctic tropopause cooled from 1950 to 1990. After that? Don’t know. It might have continued to cool, or warmed a bit, or have "plateaued" (see June 13 NYT comments.)


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